A chigger is a six-legged larva that becomes a mite. Chiggers are found in tall grassy areas, berry patches, weedy areas and low damp areas. Chiggers give rather nasty bites, usually around the waist and ankles [source: University of Maryland, Koehler, Oi]. When the chigger bites you, it injects saliva that contains a powerful enzyme that dissolves your skin cells. The chigger then sits under the skin and sucks up the dissolved or liquefied skin cells. In time a tube-like structure of hardened cells is formed on your skin. This is called a stylostome, and this is what causes the terrible itch. When you start to scratch, you remove the chigger, which eventually dies [source: Missouri]. You'll only notice you've been bitten a number of hours after the fact [source: Missouri, Koehler, Oi]. Here's how to recognize chigger bites.
- Itching Terrible itching is the most common symptom. The itching peaks about two days after being bitten.
- Welt A red welt will form in the area of the bite. The longer the chigger feeds on the victim, the larger the welt will become [source: Missouri].
The symptoms usually resolve in about 10 days [source: Simpson].
Here are some precautions you can take to avoid being bitten by chiggers.
- Avoid areas known to have chiggers, particularly in warm weather.
- Cover up as much as possible, by wearing long sleeves and long pants.
- Dust yourself with powdered sulfur, especially around the tops of your socks and round your waist [source: Missouri].
- Apply mosquito repellant before venturing into areas that may be infested with chiggers [source: Simpson].
- Bathe in warm water upon returning home. Chiggers often walk all over the host for a few hours, looking for the best place to feed. You may be able to wash them off before they bite you [source: Koehler, Oi, Simpson, Missouri].